What makes Jeremy Gallon, Jeremy Gallon? The short answer is that he’s too small.
Why, then, does he play wide receiver? Why is he so tough? Why does he still go overlooked after establishing himself as a true threat for the Michigan football team?
Too small. Too small. Too small.
“Growing up, I always played big as a small person — had to,” Gallon said. “I feel like any small person wants to be big, to be noticed.”
“He says he’s 5-(foot)-9, but I think he’s like 5-(foot)-7, 5-(foot)-6,” said backup quarterback Devin Gardner, whom Gallon calls his “little big-brother,” because Gardner is a year younger and, because Gardner is 6-foot-4.
When the redshirt sophomore Gallon was first recruited by Michigan, he was too short to play quarterback, the position he played in high school. So he watched how Roy Roundtree played, picking up the nuances of the position. Had to. He had never played wide receiver before coming to Michigan.
Gallon bided his time behind Roundtree and upperclassmen Junior Hemingway and Darryl Stonum — all taller receivers — and worked on his craft. This past summer, he ran routes with Gardner everyday. Sometimes twice a day.
Sometimes they’d bring in a cornerback, usually J.T. Floyd, to cover Gallon. But most days, it’d just be the two of them working.
“(We ran) fades — every route, really,” Gardner said. “Because that’s something we knew we could get on other teams because they underestimate how small he is. So that’s something that surprises them — as you can see, he’s been jumping over guys all year.”
The receivers practice going up and getting jump-balls on a daily basis. They line up one-on-one with a defensive back, with wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski’s words ringing in their ears: “When the ball’s in the air, the toughest guy wins it.”
In the fourth quarter against Notre Dame in September, junior quarterback Denard Robinson trusted Gallon enough to loft a jump ball to the corner of the endzone. Gallon jumped, arms extended, and came down with it. Had to.
“It’s a mental thing. If I’m in the air, I’m going to come down with the ball,” Gallon said. “I really don’t even care about the height situation. … Just throw it to me and I want to come down with it.”
Each time he does it, he makes believers out of the stubborn majority who still doubts his athleticism and tough demeanor. He doesn’t know exactly how high he can jump, but he dunked a basketball last year for the first time in his life.
“I’m no LeBron James, but I can dunk a basketball,” Gallon said.
“I didn’t know he could dunk until I saw it,” Roundtree said. “I wouldn’t think a short person could dunk like he was dunking.”
Count some of his teammates among the doubters. Almost every day in practice someone challenges Gallon.
“It’s like they still don’t believe, because he’s so small and he’s so silly,” Gardner said. “They don’t really believe. But he shows them every time.
“They can’t (cover him), because he’s such a good athlete. … He’s just a small guy, so he has to prove himself it seems like.”
That’s when he rises above defenders half-a-foot taller than he is, breaks a few tackles on a screen pass or destroys a cornerback on a block.
Roundtree said there’s no doubt Gallon is the best blocking wide receiver on the team.
Hecklinski shows them tape of past great Michigan wide receivers. But it’s not of Desmond Howard catching passes. They watch how the Heisman Trophy winner blocked a guy out of bounds until the whistle blew.
Gallon’s goal every time he blocks a guy: “Put him five yards into the ground.”
Every game, the wide receivers track how many knockdowns they had. Hecklinski made it clear: blocking is what is expected of a “Michigan wide receiver,” especially with the emergence of Fitz Toussaint and the running game.
“Gallon’s got some pretty good form,” said redshirt junior guard Patrick Omameh. “He’s got some pretty good leverage, but that’s kind of natural.”
The jabs about his height won’t stop. Neither will Gallon.
“I don’t want to be looked at as one of the soft receivers or one who could be taken advantage of,” he said.
“I want to be one of the ones they look at and say, ‘Watch out for this kid, because he’s coming at you.’ ”